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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


photo Lauren King

SOLE VOLANTE: Belmont Prep? Blue Grass Prep?

Prior to Wednesday’s featured event for three-year-olds going a flat mile at Gulfstream Park, the appearance of graded stakes winners Ete Indien and Sole Volante were billed as preps for the Haskell Stakes and Belmont Stakes, respectively.

After the race won by Sole Volante, given a great setup created by a hot-paced duel between his stablemate and the talented, speedy Shivaree, something changed.

The newly blinkered Ete Indien was dueled into submission but remains on the path to Eatontown, New Jersey. I’m betting on another equipment change: Blinkers off, they served their prep purpose.

Alternatively, trainer Patrick Biancone suggested post race that he may not want to go that far north on 95 with Sole Volante and could opt for Lexington instead of Elmont.

Majority owner Dean Reeves wants to go to New York but would defer depending on Biancone’s input. The trainer has to be concerned with the quick turnaround. The Belmont is nine furlongs and nine days hence; the Blue Grass is July 11.

“When we learned Maxfield got hurt, the thinking changed,” said stable manager Jay Stone, who, as agent, bought a majority share in Sole Volante for Dean and Patti Reeves after the Mucho Macho Man Stakes. “Right now it’s a jump ball.”

Either way, Sole Volante should be suited by the race flow. The one-turn Belmont features a long sprint down the backstretch which assures at minimum honest fractions. Two turns works equally well, as his Sam F Davis victory attests.

“In New York, Sole Volante would be 6-1, in Kentucky he’d be 5-2,” added Stone. “Spacing is a consideration but Luca [Panici] left something in the tank when he thought he had the race won. It depends on the horse but ultimately it will be Dean’s decision.”

At this posting, we’re thinking parlay: Blinkers off in New Jersey; no Tiz the Law in New York.

War of Attrition

Nadal. Charlatan. Maxfield. Wells Bayou. And I’m sure I’m missing one or two other would-be three-year-old champions.

And here we are, nine days out from the Belmont, the first leg of the Triple Crown, a series that will stretch from June 20 to October 3, and I’m wondering how many more side-liners? I pray none.

I’m also thinking what if the 2020 Triple Crown had been the traditional five-week first Saturday-in-May to first Saturday-in-June series, what might the rate of attrition been then?

Condylar fractures, bone bruises, who needs them? Certainly not a sport that is enjoying something of a renaissance because team sports are returning slowly and how much Amazon Prime or Netflix can a sports fan watch?

Needed: Racing Film Festival on TV

Why can’t I watch ‘Seabiscuit‘ if I wanted, or ‘Boots Malone‘, or ‘Casey’s Shadow‘, or the even the popular if overrated ‘Let It Ride‘, with those glorious scenes in and around Hialeah.

God forbid there should be great racing movies of consequence, combining grit and historical accuracy:

The Cup‘, with the great Brendan Gleeson as the great Irish horseman, Dermot Weld, or ‘Phar Lap‘, in which the Chairman of the Australian Jockey Club utters the words–possibly for the first time on film–“weight can stop a train!”

Or, while it’s not a horse racing movie per se, who can forget the final scene from Stanley Kubrick’s film noir classic, “The Killing,” when a ton of money can be lost after making a score at the racetrack.

Hey Mr. Gary Barber, you must know some people, right? Why not make a phone call or two?

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14 Responses

  1. Horse racing is a great game, but boy, it’s a rough sport to follow….I can’t speak for ordinary bettors, but anyone who’s a fan of the game or otherwise involved loves these horses, and you just never know when they will get hurt or sick…

    As to the Belmont, I’m eager to see how Max Player stacks up and how much he’s improved…

    John, I know you’re busy – I’m sure you’ll get around to Creed, lol – there’s no rush at all. His win today I think will come up pretty strong as it was JUST slower than a good allowance race won by another Shug trainee, Alandra.

  2. stanley kubrick’s final film still has to be the strangest i’ve seen.
    while a clockwork orange is one of my favorites.

    1. Bets,

      If you love the horses, yes, these injuries are very disappointing and the only good that seems to come out of those situations is that it wasn’t “life threatening.” Talk about tough. Still haven’t seen Creed yet but it’s the weekend so peddling as fast as I can. Later…

      1. Yes, exactly, John. I hope for every horse to stay healthy, and I’m especially crossing my fingers for HAP. He seems to have a very strong constitution – he galloped today, and continually tossed his head, like he wanted to run. If he could talk, he’d be begging John to run him in the Belmont.

        No rush to see Creed, but I look forward to your thoughts when you do. He got an 87 Beyer and a 113 on the US Timeform ratings. I was told that means that he needs to improve several (but not a ton) points to be graded stakes or G1 caliber, so his race was strong.

        1. OK Bets, finally caught up to Creed. Clearly, no one was going to catch up with him on the day…

          It was an impressive performance. When Jose Ortiz pressed the button the response appeared immediate, and while the favorite he passed approaching headstretch was softened up on the pace, he did it on his own.

          Creed never was placed in a serious drive but drew out, winning with his ears pricking in solid time, a good final sixteenth while gearing down.

          Two qualifiers: The race was on a wet and sealed surface that seemed to suit him very well.

          And while benefiting from a perfect setup, he was quite professional. Down the road, there’s a stakes with his name on it–the grade is up to him and how he continues developing. Certainly a horse of interest to follow.

          Good tout!

    2. Den, what the hell was the name of that song that the Malcolm MacDowell used as motivation while he bludgeoned people. It was fascinating but as the bad Don (Fanucci) said as he walked away from the Italian kabuki-theater thing was “Oh, too violent for me.”

      Was Eyes Wide Shut that last movie? But God, he’s in the conversation about GOAT. Think about it: Dr. Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket, The Shining, Barry Lyndon, 2001 Space Odyssey, Spartacus, Lolita, and my favorite anti-war movie of all time, Paths of Glory. Amazing filmography!

    1. You are right, Eric, my bad. Patrick bought him and he got the Reeves’s involved. Love this audience! Must admit, though, either way, it was a good move!

  3. Dr. Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket, The Shining, Barry Lyndon, 2001 Space Odyssey, Spartacus, Lolita and Paths of Glory might have been great films but let’s not dismiss multiple scenes with Nicole Kidman in the nude.

    On a more serious note, am I the only one distressed that even with an attrition-depleted field, so many of the best of the rest of their generation are treating the Triple Crown as if it were horse manure?

    Contemporary breeders, owners and trainers are doing their best to diminish the best thing racing has going for itself. When they finally realize what they have done, it will be too late.

  4. Point taken on Nicole Kidman.

    Tom, I understand, but I’m being philosophical. You know how when there’s a Triple Crown on the line at Belmont, the race is about that one horse? In that spirit, it’s all about Tiz the Law cementing his place on top of the division–this week, anyway.

    Point 2? That, for better or worse, it’s still all about the Derby…

  5. Seabiscuit is the only one mentioned that I have watched. Would enjoy watching the others. Here’s a racing scene from the Reivers (1969). (youtube cfkHnHY8lhQ). Listening to Burgess Merideth’s voice replay is right up there with Cappy (Capasella) in the days of old.

    1. Mc D, big fun scene from The Reivers, thanks (readers copy and paste address into your browers)

      I cannot tout The Cup and Phar Lap strongly enough, do try to find those. Racing realism is a rarity on film.

  6. John,

    2020 Belmont: When has a race ever looked as hype-worthy and just as quickly fallen apart? I feels like my head needs to be on a swivel to keep up with the latest. Is Sole Volante in or out? If in I see him 3-1 or 7/2 to Tiz the Law’s 4/5 or possibly less. Tap It to Win and Dr Post only other ones under 10-1.

    About tomorrow’s Ogden Phipps: How is it that a G1 at Belmont failed to attract any of the presumptive top 5 of the division (Bisou, Monomoy, Serengeti, Dunbar, Guarana)? Anti-NY bias? Happenstance of this crazy year? Other/both?

    A thought about the Travers: While other tracks have been filling in their “dance cards” NYRA still has not announced its plans (at least as of the last I read). My idea – run the Travers either August 1 or August 8 at the distance of 1m&3/16. An ideal prep, a month or so before the September 5 Derby and at suitable lead-in distance. In this year like none other, why not?

    Lastly, I wish I could agree that any horse racing renaissance presently being experienced will continue as other team sports return. I just don’t see it happening; for the most part I think its mainly antsy horseplayers signing up for ADW accounts that have filled the void left by no on-track attendance, or OTB parlors or racebooks. When NBA & NHL get underway and NFL begins, horse racing will recede to its pre-pandemic place in the sports pecking order.


    1. Rich, only thing I’ve heard about the Travers is that it will remain 1-1/14 miles. First Saturday in August will give horsemen four weeks to the Derby. And I agree with you. This racing year, such as it is, the Travers makes more sense at 1-3/16s miles.

      Hey, if the Belmont can be a mile and an eighth, right??

      I think perhaps some “sports” people might have enjoyed the racing experience, and if they got lucky, who knows. Certainly, not nearly all will be retained, but some could…

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